Plants for Slopes and Hillsides

Gardener’s Corner | Questions and Answers with Local Experts 

By Dan Songster, 2013 November

This column is a regular newsletter feature offering chapter members and local experts a chance to briefly share information on many things related to gardening with natives. Our question for this newsletter is, “What is your favorite native plant for use on slopes and hillsides?”

Mike Evans – “Lemonade berry and/or sugar bush, depending on location. Good to also combine them with their natural companions.”

Ron Vanderhoff 

On slopes, especially large or steep ones, diversity is always better than a single monoculture.

Start with Salvias, like ‘Mrs. Beard’ and ‘Bee’s Bliss’. Then add some plants like Eriogonum ‘Dana Point’, Baccharis ‘Pigeon Point’, Artemesia ‘Canyon Grey’ and Ceanothus ‘Yankee Point’.”

Greg Rubin – “My all-time favorite slope plant is Baccharis ‘Pigeon Point’. It is incredibly adaptable, evergreen, fire-resistant, and a fantastic stabilizer. However, I never plant it as a monoculture, instead pairing it with other groundcovers such as Ceanothus ‘Joyce Coulter’ and Arctostaphylos ‘John Dourley’. Arctostaphylos hookeri ssp. franciscana is also an amazing plant which is very adaptable under a wide range of conditions, surprising when one considers its rarity.”

Dori Ito – “My favorite planting for a slope as well as groundcover is the Wishbone Plant, aka Four O’clock, Mirabilis laevis, because of its cheerful and charming pink floral display and nicely spreading and tumbling ways. In drought conditions it can go dry and brownish, but I’ve found that with watering it will rebound nicely and flower most of the year.”

Bart O’Brien – “Easy answer to this question: sages, sage brushes, and buckwheats! All are excellent subjects and bring both the character and the aroma of California.”

Charles Wright – “Since our mountain home is on a hillside I would have to say my favorite native plants for slopes would be the native plants (like scrub oak, which here is Quercus john-tuckerii and yucca, Hesperoyucca whipplei, and Jeffery Pine). So I guess the takeaway is plant what would grow there before the place was developed.”

Dan Songster – “Buckwheats.  Especially our vigorous and floriferous California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum. It often grows on the toughest slopes in the wild and spreads quickly, takes heat, takes all soils, and after a couple years needs no water other than whatever rainfall we receive. Oh, and it is one of our greatest pollinator plants for the little butterflies such as the Acmon Blue and Behr’s Metalmark.”


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